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The Apothecary Rose (Owen Archer #1)

3.9  ·  Rating Details ·  3,225 Ratings  ·  137 Reviews
Once the king's captain of archers, now he must penetrate a poisoner's secrets...

Christmastide, 1363-and, at an abbey in York, two pilgrims die mysteriously dead of an herbal remedy. Suspicious, the Archbishop sends for Owen Archer, a Welshman with the charm of the devil, who's lost one eye to the wars in France and must make a new career as an honest spy.

Masquerading as a
Paperback, 319 pages
Published September 15th 1994 by St. Martin's Paperbacks (first published 1993)
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Community Reviews

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I found The Apothecary Rose interesting to read since it I'm not that used to read historical mystery books that take place in the 14th century. This mystery was especially interesting since it involves the church. John Thoresby, Lord Chancellor of England and Archbishop of York sends out one-eyed spy Owen Archer to find out if the two suspicious death at the infirmary of St. Mary's Abbeys are murders and if so who's behind it. Could it be the Master Apothecary Nicholas Wilton or his wife? Or so ...more
Jul 25, 2011 Lorena rated it it was ok
There were aspects of this book that I found very enjoyable...the way the city of York was brought to life as almost another character in the book, for example. Also, this is one of those mysteries where you know immediately WHO did it, but the hero does not, and must work at discovering both who and why. Those types of mysteries are often tricky, because there is a danger the reader will grow bored waiting for the detective to catch on. I wasn't terribly bored with this one, but I found the her ...more
Aug 14, 2007 Elaine rated it it was amazing
Shelves: pastpleasures
I marked the read date as July, however, I've read this one several times. The entire Owen Archer series is phenomenal, excellent stories from beginning to end, with characters who are neither all bad nor all good, just a perfect blend of both to make them human and real.

The attention to historical detail is wonderful, although their ideas of 'cures' can sometimes make one cringe in the modern world. Unlike many other mystery books, you aren't kept in suspense as to who did it, for you know righ
Aug 13, 2016 Kiwi rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I enjoyed this book, it’s a good mystery story with solid historical basis, but I struggled with the author’s narrative style (frequently changing stream of consciousness type POVs).
Stef Rozitis
I read this book expecting a mystery/crime story and as a representative of that group it must be said that it kind of sucked. The story itself was predictable, and didn't even pretend very hard at being either a puzzle or even a psychological view of a crime (not that I like those). So really, the story was a romance novel featuring a crime. The romance itself irritated me, while I liked the character of Mistress Wilton (I don;t remember her name and NONE of the reviewers mention it which is te ...more
Oct 09, 2015 Patty rated it really liked it
I will start by noting that I have a weakness for series type books. I enjoy getting to know a character or characters and then following them along in their lives. When presented with the opportunity to review this series it was actually pretty cool because I didn’t have to wait for the next volume to come out – I was going to have almost all of the books at once to read over a two month period. (One of the books is not being re-released. I’m going to try and find it so I can complete the set.) ...more
Jan 16, 2013 Claire rated it liked it
Much of the drama in this book would have been averted if the actors in it had taken the time to determine whether or not the people they tried to kill did, in fact, die. Check your work, people.
Dec 01, 2015 Jen rated it really liked it
Candace Robb did PhD studies in Medieval and Anglo-Saxon literature (ABD, all-but-dissertation) and has continued to research the fields thoroughly for each book.

Robb also has some intriguing comments on the three hats a writer of historical mysteries must wear. Not all writers of historical mysteries manage all three as well as Robb. She creates well-developed novels with dynamic characters; gets the chronology right (or explains why some changes are included); makes sure that the places she
Aug 21, 2009 HBalikov rated it really liked it
I like historical novels as you can see if you search my reviews. Some of the best are series by authors such as Forster, O'Brian and Cornwell. Historical mystery writers have a particular challenge and some, such as Pargeter and Saylor, have mastered it. Candace Robb recognizes that and articulates it as follows: "Writing a historical mystery novel requires the author to wear three hats, novelist, historian and mystery writer. The novelist guards the integrity of the form, the growth of the mai ...more
Laura Edwards
Aug 02, 2016 Laura Edwards rated it liked it
A 3.5. Promising start to the series. Enjoyable, intriguing characters and backstories. The story did lag quite a bit around the middle, though I understand the author is using the first book to set up said characters and backstories, so I'll cut her some slack. The one thing I did not like was the fact the reader knows that one of Owen's chief suspects, Lucie Wilton, is innocent. Takes away some of the suspense. Hopefully, this does not happen in the books which follow. Also, there were intermi ...more
Elizabeth  (Thoughts From an Evil Overlord)
In fourteenth-century England, Owen is a former archer working for the Archbishop of York, who wants a quiet look into two deaths at one of the Church's abbeys. Taciturn and observant, Owen immediately notices many things that are "off" in the village and the abbey. Some people seem suspicious for no reason and others guilty. Teaming up to share information with the village summoner, the man in charge of watching for people breaking of Church law, a story begins to form for Owen where the pilgri ...more
Trish Fowlie
It is difficult for me to get behind Owen Archer as a protagonist because of his status as a mercenary in the service of the grandson of Longshanks, or his vassals. I'm well aware national identity and loyalty to kin and soil were not concepts with any meaning to ordinary folk in those centuries - Archer seems to have left Wales and his family behind with no backward glance to serve the occupying kingdom.
Still, he's a good soldier, and when his wounds make army life too hazardous, he is able to
Mar 07, 2016 Kicia rated it it was ok
" Christmastide, 1363-and, at an abbey in York, two pilgrims die mysteriously dead of an herbal remedy. Suspicious, the Archbishop sends for Owen Archer, a Welshman with the charm of the devil, who's lost one eye to the wars in France and must make a new career as an honest spy.

Masquerading as an apprentice to Apothecary Nicholas Wilton, whose shop dispensed the fatal potion, Owen's dark curls, leather eyepatch and gold earring intrigue Wilton's wife. But is this lovely woman a murderess? and wh
Sep 13, 2016 N.D. rated it it was amazing
Terrific, and a total surprise. I bought this book because I like mysteries set in the medieval/middle ages time period. I saw it advertised on Amazon as a recommendation based on the fact that I read the Ellis Peters Brother Cadfael books. It was also free, so I figured what the heck, if it is terrible no big loss. Well, not only was it not terrible, but it was a really great read. I put it right up there with the first Cadfael book and the Doomsday Book by Connie Willis. Ms. Robb captured the ...more
Nov 10, 2014 Heather rated it it was amazing
The book starts off by setting the stage – introducing the characters that will soon be suspects and having the murder actually take place. It’s one of the few mysteries I’ve read that began in this manner. Most books start by introducing the main character. This is not most books.

Because of how the story begins, the reader spends a good portion of the book knowing things that the main character hasn’t figured out yet. However, Owen is quick and he figures things out before the halfway point.

Jul 24, 2016 Stefania rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Ma è un giallo o un romanzo rosa? Io intanto gli appioppo 2 stelline (e mi sento anche generosa).
Mar 30, 2011 Renee rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2011
I had to buy this book in paper format, because there is no ebook version. So that was a downer. I did get bored about 3/4 of the way through. I think she is a great writer (the book was well written) but the plot kinda sucked. I thought it was going to be a mystery. We found out who committed the murder at the beginning of the book and did not really find out the why until the end and it was extremely anti-climatic. Not sure if I will go for the second one, since I have to order these books in ...more
Cheryl Brandt
Jan 11, 2016 Cheryl Brandt rated it it was amazing
The Apothecary Rose is set in York during the reign of Edward III. He has been fighting the French to take the crown of France for himself, with the help, among others, of the English and Welsh long bow men.

Our hero, Owen Archer, Captain of Archers for the Duke of York, has lost an eye, and no longer trusts himself in battle to protect those he fights with, although he has gained back most of his strength and can pull the bow almost as well as before he was injured.

Thus begins our hero's new lif
Angela Williams
Apr 15, 2016 Angela Williams rated it really liked it
As other reviewers have mentioned – in this first book of the Owen Archer series you know who was murdered, how and by whom within the first chapter or so. But you don’t know why… until the last couple of pages… so no you don’t get to play detective along with Owen (in this book anyway), and yes that kind of plot is annoying. However, having read a couple more stories in this series, I feel that this book should be considered as setting up the main characters - Owen Archer, former captain of arc ...more
John Lee
Jan 19, 2015 John Lee rated it really liked it
I think that it was a recommendation from Goodreads that put me on to this one. Certainly I hadnt heard of the author before.

I enjoyed the tale and the authors style in telling it. It is certainly well researched but, unlike a lot of historical fiction, it does not dwell on one particular aspect of the period. They are mentioned and left. One can think of authors who describe every course of each meal or each item of clothing.

As the author says in the notes at the end, she treads a line between
Dec 08, 2015 Mirachil27 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A Good Start

As a major fan of C J Sansom's Brother Sheldrake series of medieval historical mysteries, I was pleased to discover Candace Robb's Owen Archer series in a BookBub bargain offering recently. If this first book in the series is any indication of future offerings, I shall enjoy reading more Robb.

Ms Robb's hand has a lighter touch than Sansom's, the mood is less dark here although there is plenty of scheming going on behind the scenes here as well. Both Archer and Sheldrake are marked by
Jun 02, 2016 Patsyann rated it it was amazing
I love historical mysteries with a little romance.
The characters were great, though the heroine seemed like a secondary character for the first part of the book. She became more important to the story in the last part of the book.
The secondary characters and even the villains made the story, they were the best, and not too overpowering they just moved the story along. It was one of the secondary characters that gave the physical description of the hero to the reader.
The book took place in medi
Jul 25, 2012 Jenni rated it it was amazing
I really liked this book and am anxious to read more of the series! Good mystery plot woven into the medieval historical setting. I like how the author presents a story that transports the reader back 700 years but bridges to modern understanding. In other words, just enough historical flavoring without confusing me! Highly recommended for those who enjoy the historical mystery genre.
The book is well written and well paced. The story never bogs down in too much detail and the action progresses smoothly from one scene to the next. The characters are decently rounded and extremely interesting, particularly the villian, who is almost shower worthingly obsessed. The actions of the characters at the end keeps the suspense nicely ratcheted up and the pages turning.
Raven Haired Girl
I’m a huge fan of this series. Robb crafts a satisfying series with the intriguing character of Owen Archer, neophyte spy. The medieval time of mid 1300’s is captivating.

Robb provides loads of twists along with numerous characters you will meet again as the series progresses. The books are fine as stand-alones, however, for optimal reading and enjoyment I suggest reading in order, a few pertinent details could spoil books skipped if read out-of-order. Regardless it’s a series historical mystery
Aug 22, 2015 Cynthia rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
1360's, York; Owen Archer is a Welshman who was Captain of Archers during the 100-year's war with France until he was blinded in one eye. This book is the beginning of a very interesting series of the people and times in the British Isles. I have re-read the series many times.
Oct 09, 2015 Trish rated it really liked it
I love historical fiction, and especially historical mysteries. This is one of the first medieval mysteries I've read, and it was fascinating. The Apothecary Rose is rich with historical detail.

Owen is a strong protagonist, and I enjoyed reading about the way he solved the mystery. I also really liked the love story. The apothecary setting was particularly interesting, and I felt I learned a bit about medieval life through the details in this book.

The storytelling was compelling. The characters
Jul 11, 2016 George rated it it was amazing
#1 in the Owen Archer mystery series. Christmastide, 1363 at an abbey in York, two pilgrims die mysteriously dead of an herbal remedy. Suspicious, the Archbishop sends for Owen Archer, a Welshman, once a Captain of Archers, Archer lost one eye in the wars in France and must make a new career as an honest spy.

A good mystery with interesting characters (more so because 3 of them are women) and sub plot issues as things move along quickly. This is Archer's first mission as a spy and you get to see
Jan 29, 2016 Booknblues rated it really liked it
The correct way to read a series of books is to start with the first as is the case of Apothecary Rose being the first of a series by Candace Robb. I, unfortunately do not always follow the proscribed technique and in the case of Apothecary rose it was the forth I have read.
I was of course delighted to read the details of Owen Archers and Lucie Wiltons romance. Owen is sent to York by the Archbishop to investigate the death of the archbishop's ward who is a bit of a wayward soul and could easily
Jun 03, 2015 Nick rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: crime, historical
Though I first encountered historical mysteries through the tv show based on Ellis Peters' Cadfael, and have since come to quite enjoy those of Peters' books I have read, my long running love affair with Historical Mysteries began here, with Candace Robb and Owen Archer, in 14th century York. There are perhaps better historical mystery writers than Robb - I am a massive fan of Susanna Gregory's Bartholemew series for instance - but rereading this book takes me right back to that first time, disc ...more
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AKA Emma Campion or Candace M. Robb
My novels are inspired by my study of the late Middle Ages in Northern Europe. My three mystery series feature medieval sleuths: the Kate Clifford mysteries debut in May 2016 with The Service of the Dead, set in York at the cusp of the 15th century with a strong, independent young widow forged on the warring northern marches. The Owen Archer mysteries are set in
More about Candace Robb...

Other Books in the Series

Owen Archer (10 books)
  • The Lady Chapel (Owen Archer, #2)
  • The Nun's Tale (Owen Archer, #3)
  • The King's Bishop (Owen Archer, #4)
  • The Riddle of St. Leonard's (Owen Archer, #5)
  • A Gift of Sanctuary (Owen Archer, #6)
  • A Spy for the Redeemer (Owen Archer, #7)
  • The Cross-Legged Knight (Owen Archer, #8)
  • The Guilt of Innocents (Owen Archer, #9)
  • A Vigil of Spies (Owen Archer, #10)

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